By Carmen Greger
Two teenagers, two driving permits and well on the way to two licenses.
Two teenagers behind the wheel feels like a big deal. It never really hit me like this before.
Actually, the moment I wrote those words, I pictured the teen that actually did hit me…
I was stopped at a stop light and she, the new Junior driver, slammed into me; It felt like a full- on jet landing, and I sustained many injuries, including a torn meniscus, cracked teeth, major whiplash and a Traumatic Brain Injury.
That accident has had serious impact on my life; I suffered the consequences, and my family is paying for the distracted driver’s mistake.
I am not intending to complain here, but to explain.
So much can happen in an instant. A vehicle can be a life-threatening weapon on the road, especially in the hands of an unseasoned or distracted driver. Back in the day, my Dad always taught me defensive driving, sprinkling in comments that have echoed through the decades directly into the passenger seat of our SUV via my own voice during my kids’ lessons:
“There’s a kid behind every car”…
“You don’t want to put your seatbelt on properly because you don’t want to wrinkle your shirt? How many wrinkles do you think that top will have in it after you go through the windshield?”…
“At every stop sign, Stop, scooch, pause- then Go “…
“Keep your eyes on the road”…
“Speed kills; when in doubt, slow down and be patient”….
“Always make sure to be a courteous driver”…..
The list is endless, but these are some that stand out.
And these days, it seems as if everyone’s driving on the offense; stressed out, overwhelmed and on their devices in their manic race against the clock and one another in this ‘bigger, better, faster, more’ world we live in.
Perhaps that’s why I have the breaks on.
Perhaps that’s why I can’t rally myself to get out the pom-poms and peppy cheers and green-light them to catapult to the next phase of lessons- embarking on the 6 hour journey of highway driving with the pros in order to cover all the bases I may have missed (as well as lower their insurance policy costs).
Because then, there’s no U-Turning; Licensed to drive and roads open wide- fair and square.
“But they’re my babies”, I think aloud, “how can I possibly protect them when I’m not in the car?”.
I begrudgingly answer myself, “Nurture their roots and wings as well as your own faith over fear and all will be well”. Ugh.
Perhaps there’s a little subconscious PTSD there in my hesitancy (this acronym could also translate as Parental Trepidation of Students Driving).
My dear friend has been car shopping for his kids who have just gotten their permits. He has done extensive research on ‘safe and affordable first cars for new drivers’ and came across a few decent and surprising options listed in a Kelly blue book article, which also mentioned a sad and horrifying statistic about teens and car accidents: the second leading cause of death for teens between 16-19 years old. Heart-breaking.
I personally feel like sixteen is a little young to be operating a vehicle (full transparency- I’m sure I didn’t feel that way as a 16-year-old behind the wheel, but I certainly do as a parent). It’s a huge responsibility, liability, and overall risk. Of course, it is also understandable that it’s fun, liberating and potentially practical, and is certainly a step towards greater independence.
But at 16, is the risk worth the reward?
One bad choice, one wrong decision, one mistake from any of the drivers of the tons of cars out there on the road at any time in any place (let’s not even mention those distracted or under the influence or the not so rosy traffic scenario in the city or the burbs at rush hour during stormy weather when everybody is just ‘pedal to the metal’ to get home).
As parents we aim to protect, provide, nurture and guide; we want to encourage our children’s knowledge, experience, and growth, and to acknowledge, promote and celebrate their achievements along the way. There are certain times when the growing pains are felt more than others. This is one of those times.
This article was initially intended to be a fun sneak peek into the silly side of lessons learned as a parent in the passenger seat, which is where many of us will likely be demoted to and remain for life. A lot of fears and tears came up as I outlined the piece and wanted to keep it real.
On a practical note, I highly recommend the professional driving schools out there. Be sure to ask for the package that will comprehensively cover the necessary details regarding safety, laws, and vehicle operation, reduce the teen-driver’s insurance rate, and offer the test during the last hour of the session series. My teens are each registering for 3 two-hour lessons and will be taking their test during the last hour on their third lesson, for a reduced rate of 620 and a significant reduction in their auto insurance policies once they pass the exam.
Beyond the fear-smudged glasses, yet still undoubtedly uncomfortable, my tank is topped off with hope and pride as I hand over to each of my children one of the many sets of keys well-earned and well-deserved in their lifetime thus far, fully aware that there are certainly many lessons still to be imparted, batons to be passed, and keys to be bestowed.
I know in my heart, soul and being, it’s my time, my responsibility and my honor to help to catalyze the unveiling of the open roads and opportunities that await them. I am truly in awe, grounded in gratitude and looking forward to celebrating their accomplishments with them as they grow further into adulthood.
I am ready to claim my ‘passenger seat status’ as their guide on the side, and bear witness as they captain their ship, navigating the vast concrete ocean towards their own North Star.
Two Teens. Two Licenses. They’ve got this.
“Roots and Wings, Faith over Fear”, I whisper to myself as I fasten my seatbelt.
Stay tuned for “Driving Me Crazy” a lighter, happier side of having Teens Behind the Wheel.